Pharmacists Are Essential and Partners on the Patient Care Team

Dear Colleagues,

Many of you are likely aware that the American Medical Association (AMA) has a robust campaign to fight “scope creep” by nurse practitioners, physician associates/assistants, nurse anesthetists, optometrists, psychologists, naturopaths, and pharmacists. AMA’s focus on pharmacists, in an article entitled: What's the difference between pharmacists and physicians?, is disappointing and does not reflect the types of collaborations that occur among pharmacists, physicians, nurses, and other healthcare providers each and every day. Many of the physicians that you partner with speak to the value of and need for pharmacists on the patient care team, including in clinics, at the bedside, and in ambulatory/community pharmacies.

Efforts by the AMA to address scope creep are not new, and have a decades-long history. As we know well, these views do not necessarily reflect the collective views of all physicians. Pharmacists, like physicians, are licensed autonomous healthcare professionals who have an ethical obligation to do what is in the best interest of patients and the public. Pharmacists are obligated to ensure that medication therapy is optimal, safe, and effective and is based on the best science. We do this in partnership with physicians, nurses, and other licensed healthcare providers. In hospital and health system clinics, acute care settings, and outpatient/community pharmacies, pharmacists provide care with access to the patient, the medical record, and the entire healthcare team. Further, they do so in a collaborative fashion operating within a scope of practice that is based on their education, training, advanced certifications, areas of expertise, and ongoing peer review.

Pharmacists’ Role as Clinical Care Providers Is Undeniable and Expanding

Today, 19 states have some version of provider status that requires Medicaid, commercial insurance, or both to pay pharmacists for covered services within their scope of practice, and this trend will continue in the years ahead.

States have designated pharmacists as clinical care providers for a range of conditions, such as the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 and influenza, the management of medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD), and pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis for HIV. Every U.S. state allows pharmacists to take on even greater clinical roles through collaborative practice with physicians.

Responding with Effective Advocacy

ASHP led the charge to eliminate federal X-waiver restrictions on MOUD prescribing by pharmacists. Our model legislation empowered pharmacists to initiate MOUD therapy in their states. ASHP’s clinical training program meets federal requirements for pharmacists to register with the Drug Enforcement Administration as controlled substance prescribers. And our advocacy with the Food and Drug Administration led to the recognition of pharmacists as authorized prescribers of nirmatrelvir/ritonavir for the treatment of COVID-19.

ASHP will continue expanding our advocacy into new areas where pharmacists’ training meets patient care needs. We’re confident that policymakers who want to solve patient care challenges will continue to call on pharmacists and ASHP for solutions.

Building Constructive Relationships with Physicians

ASHP has long partnered constructively with AMA and other physician organizations to share our clinical expertise, and we will continue to do so. We worked with AMA and other partners on joint recommendations to solve our country’s drug shortage crisis and identify solutions to our nation’s opioid use epidemic. We are working together to advocate for the reauthorization of the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act. We also collaborate on training programs, including a partnership between ASHP and AMA to educate clinicians on the applications of pharmacogenomics in patient care. In recent years, we have also partnered with AMA on: Red Flag Warning Signs Related to Prescribing and Dispensing Controlled Substances; Statement on FDA Ending Emergency Use of Drugs for COVID-19; Statement on Ending Use of Ivermectin to Treat COVID-19; Statement About COVID-19 Medications; and Statement on State Laws Impacting Patient Access to Necessary Medicine. These joint efforts reinforce the fact that clinical care is a team effort that includes both pharmacists and physicians as partners.

Showing the Public What Hospital and Health-System Pharmacists Do to Improve Their Care

In my most recent blog, I provided an update on ASHP’s new Hospital and Health-System Pharmacists National Awareness Campaign. I hope you will read more about the campaign. ASHP and the ASHP Foundation have committed $4 million to tell your stories, and we are engaging with other members of the patient care team to talk about the value you bring as patient care providers in hospitals, clinics, and health-system-based outpatient/community pharmacies. I think you will agree that the timing could not be better for this important campaign. The public needs to know what you do and how important you are to their care.

ASHP will continue advocating to allow you to use all of your training, skills, and clinical expertise to advance patient care.

Thank you for all you do for your patients and our profession. 



Posted on February 28, 2024